Wrestling with Fitness

Pictured Above: Rachel pictured with a client. Photo by Hazel Ellis.

Pictured Above: Rachel pictured with a client. Photo by Hazel Ellis.

Rachel Walker from Elgin Road has an impressive résumé – from wrestling to stunt double work – and has recently taken an entrepreneurial leap of faith; opening a private personal training studio, Bridge Fitness in Ballsbridge.

Walker always liked fitness when she was younger but found she preferred solo activities like swimming and running to team sports. In her early twenties she joined a gym and upon completion of a Natural Sciences (Geography) degree in Trinity, realised that she really wanted to pursue a career in health and fitness. She completed a personal training and nutrition course and began taking clients for individual sessions.

“I’ve dipped my toes in many areas and I always come back to what I would call ego-training. Focusing on the mind and the body, and getting results in both. My own training regime is always based on looking and feeling good. After a session it’s important to feel exhilarated, accomplished and strong. But you also want to look good in the mirror too!” Walker said.

It was also around this time that Rachel was introduced to the world of wrestling. She began to train with friends, learning the skills and sequences required to perform in the ring. She was a natural and soon began touring, appearing in sell-out shows at home and abroad. Living on a tour bus for weeks on end, she was in good company with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) legends such as Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart.

With the advent of the recession, the European shows became slower to fill and it was time to look at an alternative means of making a living. In 2011, after submitting her “wrestling CV” to the European WWE scout, Rachel was invited to Birmingham for a two-day audition. She was subsequently offered a contract with WWE and began making plans to move to Florida for the yearlong developmental training.

With contract signed, flights booked and visa secured, she was almost ready for fame and fortune with the WWE. However, in 2012, two weeks before she was due to fly out, while attempting a ‘Crucifix’ move, Rachel tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). “The noise it made, and the pain, I knew I had done something serious.” Her contract was postponed for one year, to allow for surgery and rehab, but six months later, after painstaking physiotherapy and recovery, she tore it again during a routine training session. The WWE dream was over. “I felt like the universe was trying to tell me this wasn’t where I was meant to be.”

It was on the back of her wrestling experience that Rachel became involved in stunt work. A friend of a friend was looking for “a girl who could take a fall” she explained. Shortly after this experience she began to train professionally as a stunts performer for TV and film, taking classes in sword fighting, stage combat and rock climbing.

Rachel has since worked in the last three series of Vikings as a shield maiden and is currently shooting for series four. “Vikings is hard work, and you are out in the elements for most of the day, but it’s a good laugh and the crew are great fun,” she said. Recently Rachel did some stunt work on hit TV show Penny Dreadful, going head to head in fight scenes with Bond legend Timothy Dalton and Hollywood heartthrob Josh Hartnett.

Throughout her varied career, Rachel’s day job has always been her personal training work and she has maintained a skill set that grows with her clients’ needs. Following her own injury, she studied functional movement, screening and ability, in addition to mobility troubleshooting for people recovering from injury and other physical set-backs.

Having worked in a number of commercial and private gyms, Rachel is all too aware of the importance of being comfortable and motivated during training. “My main objective in opening Bridge Fitness was to create a happy training environment where people actually look forward to working out,’ she told NewsFour.

A novel but very practical feature of her studio is a playpen and high chair installed for busy parents who can’t find the time or babysitter to be able to hit the gym. In a gym scene that can sometimes feel macho and male-dominated it is refreshing to see a female-focused training studio with an emphasis on strength, ability and fun.

Exercise programmes and training schedules can be daunting, especially if you are new to the workout world, so a private studio with support and advice can be a great place to start, especially with a shield maiden spotting you on the weights!

Contact Rachel Walker at rachelwalkerdublin@gmail.com or 086 0863834 for more info.

By Caoimhe Fox